Oh, Philip.

I’m not one to jump on bandwagons usually (first of all, I don’t particularly like the idea of travel by wagon, and secondly, I don’t know how much room there would be for me back there, like how big is the band? Are we talking brass, rock, or one-man? A girls gotta know to prepare…what shoes would I wear, how many of my handbags could I bring!?) but I’ve been thinking about the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

And though I am just another link/voice/non-authority when it comes to him and his recent death, I had a brief sliding doors type interaction with the man a week and a half before his demise. In my life, where I have been fortunate to be so removed from death and it’s consequences, the news that this highly regarded man passed away, after telling him where the bathrooms were at Sundance (glamorous me – what an interaction!) – well it was weird. I don’t think I have been as saddened by the death of a celebrity, someone I didn’t know, since Heath Ledger passed away.

My family has had it’s brush with drug addiction. That is no secret.

In fact – the reason this has all been churning inside of me is the following Facebook post from my mother:

screengrab

Philip Seymour Hoffman’s children are small, but the internet is easy to navigate. A ten year old today knows how to get online. It will take three clicks and his kids will know all the details of his death. There is a lot that is positive stuff out there about him (amazing actor, well respected), but his children will be exposed to the good, the bad & the ugly. The spotlight casts a lot of shadows, and it seems (from an outside perspective) that some of his shadows were very, very dark indeed.

I am sorry for them, those children left behind by their fathers death. Left behind by the demonic-grip that is addiction. I have seen it’s destructive force, and it is not pretty. It is terrifying to have a parent flip-flop from the person you love, trust and respect, to someone you don’t recognize – someone who’s behavior is so unpredictable, you live with the ice-flushing fear that you will say or do the wrong thing. The type of situation where you curl into a ball to make yourself as small as possible somewhere, and just wish and wish and wish, with a feverish desire that you can’t shake, that you could be someone, anyone else or somewhere, anywhere but there. You look at other people’s families (likely as fucked up as your own – but how do you know that) and ask yourself why you couldn’t have been born into the family across the street.

Is that sad to read?

When drug addiction affected our family, I was older than Philip’s kids are now. The drug was not as “hard” and at first, it was not a “problem”. I was a teenager, and I had the “cool mum” who was out partying, who would catch the later ferry home than us on a Friday night. I wouldn’t say that I was oblivious, but there is a lot you don’t know. It doesn’t start at the extreme with a needle hanging out of your inner elbow. Drug addiction creeps in, under the door, through the cracks, until there is such a mass in the room with you that you can choose to avert your eyes, but you all know it is there. Right in front of your face.

We are a fortunate family. I have two living, loving, parents who support me and tell me I’m great (thanks guys) and two younger brothers I couldn’t live without (seriously guys, Imma need those organs at some point….) but it could have all been a very different story, very easily.

I don’t know PSH’s situation. I don’t know why he was drawn to shooting shit into himself to alter his reality – I only know what I know from our experience as a family. Not everybody has a support network that is good and wants what is best for you, not everybody has had a life devoid of tragedy or fucked up fuckery that makes retreating the easiest option. There is no way I can possibly judge Philip, I did not know him.

But what I can say is, no matter how well his wife shielded their children from the addiction, they knew Daddy wasn’t totally fine.

Even the five year old.

And now that their father is gone, they will struggle with the choices he made – to leave them – to harm himself with things that were so clearly awful for him – and they will ask themselves:

didn’t he love us?

Because that is what we do, the children of this disease. We internalize.

It is impossible at first to separate your parents actions from how they reflect on you. Was I impossible to deal with without the drugs? Wasn’t I good enough? Could I have done something better/differently/wrong? Maybe if I had been XYZ he would have stopped. Maybe if I had said XYZ he would have listened. How could he be so selfish? Why didn’t somebody help him?

The truth is, he needed to help himself. He probably thought he could quit any time he wanted, but he didn’t. Not before it killed him. Maybe he didn’t want to quit – maybe it didn’t seem like it was a problem – we all know what that sounds like.

We all make horrible decisions sometimes, we are all flawed – even the people who give birth to other people (like our parents). PSH made a terrible decision and the results are devastating.

I hope that his kids realize that this is not their fault -it takes a long time to accept that, and that their father had demons that did not relate to them.

I also hope that Philips death, such a high profile waste of talent, serves as a wake up call to others.

His is not the first shocking-drug related death, and it wont be the last.

http://www.helpguide.org/mental/drug_substance_abuse_addiction_signs_effects_treatment.htm

Paris

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Six Feet Under-standing

Today I finished watching the fifth season of a little HBO show they like to call ‘Six Feet Under’. I began watching Season One earlier this year with intelligent and sort of cineophile-ish Canuck boyfriend. When he began explaining the premise of the show (that it is about a family who own, operator and live at the premises of a funeral parlour) I was intrigued but hesitant (the fact that he has not once been wrong in suggesting a film to me is besides the point.)

What began in the early part of this year ended today, and to his credit, Canuck boyfriend watched the entire thing again from start to finish with me, without missing an episode. We would discuss at length this emotional, fantastic show about love and loss and everything in between.

I haven’t watched many shows from start to finish without missing an episode, and especially with the same person in the room for every viewing experience. I think the last time something like this happened I was in Hong Kong for Christmas, and my Mum and I downloaded the first and second season of ‘Archer’ a wickedly funny animated adult-ish show about a spy agency. I was supposed to be heading out later that evening, but Mum and I downloaded them all, started drinking Bailey’s in the afternoon and couldn’t stop. I have never laughed so hard, nor snorted Milk so far across a room before.

But watching ‘Six Feet’ was different. Not only are the characters so real that you miss them and hope for their safety and well-being, but the way the show progresses is in a linear narrative structure, so each episode reveals something new about the characters and deepens their journey. And while I’m sure that each episode has its stand-alone qualities (each episode begins with a death and follows a similar structure, jumping from story lines that ensnare the different characters) after watching 5 series of this show in order…I can’t imagine just flicking on the TV and catching a re-run, or skipping to episodes I think I might like better.

After five series you believe in the struggles of the Fishers (the main family) and their community, and you have also watched them grow and develop, make up and break up, so you feel like you know their past and where they might be headed.

The whole cast and crew of this show can not be commended highly enough. They take you on a roller coaster of emotion, and although I am extremely late to the party on this one (the fifth season ended in 2005) I feel that the messages and struggles within the show are relatable to each of us today.

Whether it is David’s struggle with accepting his sexuality and wanting a family, Nate’s fear of commitment and responsibility, Ruth’s fight for independence and self-image after years of playing the role of wife and Mother, or Claire’s desire to be heard, to not be forgotten about and to be loved, we have all been there, we have all felt at times like a David, a Nate, a Ruth or a Claire. This show reminds us that life is not always pretty. It’s intense and interesting, but it ain’t always sunshine and lollipops.

In a TV and film landscape where producers and film studios are still trying to feed us glittery images of a Utopia that doesn’t exist (well…maybe it does…on the backlots of LA studios) this show is refreshing a sad and unflinching when it comes to dealing with pain.

‘Six Feet Under’ says:

Hey you know what? Sometimes life sucks. But you’ll get over it.

Everyone always said to me that the last episode would stay with me. After the tumultuous five seasons, I couldn’t imagine where the writers could take us after all the hurt we as an audience had endured. But they really took it to the next level and everyone was right. The last episode was amazing.

I would recommend that people commit to the 70 or so hours of viewing, just for the last ten minutes of episode twelve, season five.

I wish sometimes that life was documented like a TV show (I’d definitely want mine to be HBO). Things happen to us in increments sometimes, just little tiny pieces of the days and nights and they add up to make big things, to change lives for the better or for the worse, but always clumping together to form hours and days and months and years. And it’s hard to see them in big picture form. Sure, you’ll remember the big ones, the day she said yes, the day you signed your name on the deeds of the new place, births, deaths, awkward school reunions…

But what about the moments of interaction with a family member – where you learned something unique about them just for a split second, where you saw them in a different light for just a moment? In TV land the character could narrow their eyes and the music could come up, but in real life those moments go undocumented. They just happen and without realizing them, or having the remote control to go back, freeze and re-watch, we are unable to perhaps identify significance – or appreciate that nuance to the extreme.

The underlying message that I took away from this incredible show is that life is short and hard sometimes, but beautiful.

I’ll try to keep that in my heart on the days I wonder what the fuck I’m doing with my life